Neri Parenti I was twenty and drove the Bianchina like

Neri Parenti: «I was twenty and drove the Bianchina like Fantozzi. On the set, Filini died of fear»

by Giovanna Cavalli

The director: «My first film? Only Koreans were there to see him.’ ‘The jokes of the village? If Paolo discovered your weakness, you were done for. Boldi was afraid of stumbling, he advised him to have ice cream and lemon juice: that loosens the tongue. He blocked it”

“I rang the bell. A waiter pushed open a creaking gate and two large black dogs ran toward me, barking and gnashing their teeth. After Luciano Salce left, I was chosen against everyone as co-director of Fantozzi because I was 29 years old, a compact figure, but on the other hand already broken by every catastrophe. I was assured that Villaggio was excited to work with me. I was led into the living room. His wife Maura came to greet me but then disappeared, leaving me alone. After a long while an elevator opened and Paolo appeared in sandals and caftan. “Sorry, who are you?” I introduced myself. “Ah, so it’s you, Neri Parenti? I thought it was someone else.” “If you want, I’ll go.” “As long as it is, you stay”».

Festive reception. That didn’t bode well, instead they made about twenty films together, including seven from the Fantozzi saga. And shared horrible jokes on set. Like poor Filini/Gigi Reder.

“Paolo was very bad but everyone loved him. If he discovered your weakness, you were done for. Gigi was a coward – scared even of flies – and very superstitious. If there was a scene in the script where the two of them go down a ladder, I don’t know, we would imagine Paolo having to hold a spear or an ice pick behind him. “Eh, but then he slips and kills me,” he groaned in concern. Once we sent a hearse to pick him up at his home, claiming that it was the only one left in the garage. Or we made him find in his dressing-room a priest with robes and oil for the last rites».

Massimo Boldi carelessly asked him for advice ahead of his Derby debut.

“He was afraid of tripping. Paolo suggested chewing crushed ice with lemon juice before going on stage. “You’ll see it loosens your tongue.” Instead he blocked it.”

During the shooting of “Scuola di ladri” it was Boldi, the victim, plus Lino Banfi.

«Villaggio had a passion for sushi: instead of a basket, he had lunch brought to him from a Japanese restaurant. Massimo and Lino, curious, wanted to try it. “Sure, I’ll order it for you tomorrow too.” We met in his trailer. In front of these pretty morsels, served like biscuits on tiny folded trays, the two poor fellows stuffed them in their mouths with all the paper. I was about to stop her when Paolo grabbed my arm and whispered, “Shut up! Do you want to ruin one of the best moments of my life?”. And addressed to her: “Do you like it, dear?”. “In summary…””.

Back then he escaped in a hot air balloon…

“We shot in Kenya. Unbeknownst to us, Paolo had booked a panoramic tour. However, filming was delayed. “I’m going to the bathroom for a moment,” he told us. He never came back. Suddenly I saw him passing in the sky above my head. He waved. “Don’t worry, I’ll recover on Monday”».

Executive producer Bruno Altissimi, as he recounts in the book Two Christmas Balls, made sure to cheer you up – against his will.

«He threw himself into improbable Frenchisms, he spoke by ear. Proposal for the scenography “The Tuna Chairs” (Thonet), tells about having traveled “on the Boiler 747” (Boeing). One day he gave me an appointment “in Piazza Pioxi”. I searched in vain, I asked a police officer and passers-by for information. A priest came to my aid: “Perhaps he meant Piazza Pio XI”. We called him and Claudio Saraceni “Rubbà and Accattonà” because Cecchi Gori bet the money. When they found out, they were offended. For this we boasted that we introduced him to an Arab partner, a certain Arraffat».

His father Giuseppe was rector of the University of Florence, conducted the first census in China and founded the RAI opinion service.

«We have never seen a Sunday father. And when he got home he dragged us by force to the stables of Cercina, we four stubborn scoundrels, he was a great horseman. It came in handy when, as assistant to Pasquale Festa Campanile on the set of Soldier of Fortune with Bud Spencer in Tunisia, I had to give directions to actors shooting a scene on horseback. The radio didn’t work, I galloped towards her.”

When she went to Rome in 1970, her father confiscated her car.

‘A bianchina, just like Fantozzi. He wanted me to be a university professor, but I wanted to be a screenwriter. In 1968 I won a competition for an apprentice journalist, they sent me to Rai. And from there I was sent to the set of Goodbye Cruel Brother, the first film to be co-produced by public television, with unspecified duties.”

And he learned the three basic rules.

«The production manager Giorgio Adriani recited them to me: «First: do not touch the power cables. Second, always stand a hundred feet behind the camera. Third: it doesn’t break er…””.

However, he had his moment of glory with Charlotte Rampling.

“She was angry at the production because there was no hot water and she found a rat in the trailer. “But what does that mean, but who understands that?” They asked themselves. From an English mother, I chimed in the discussion. Adriani brightened: “Do you speak Stranero? So don’t move from here, stay close to me every minute of your life”. Then he took me to film Man of La Mancha with Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren. And I fell in love with cinema.

It was with the help of Steno, the father of the Vanzinas.

“If something was wrong on set, agree with me, he would pretend to be angry and make a setup. “I’m going, that’s enough!” And it disappeared. Frightened, everyone asked me to find him. And I left on the moped. “I’ll try, I don’t know if I’ll find it, huh”. I went to a bar with him. “They can come back, they worry in the right place”. When we were shooting Piedone l’Africano in South Africa, he repeated the scene and threatened to leave for Italy. And he made me break into the production office drawers at night to get tickets and passes.”

His first film as a director – John Overwhelmed… by a Strange Destiny – in 1979 was not a great success.

“It was just crap. Also on the same day, Carlo Vanzina’s first film, Son of the Stars, starring Alan Sorrenti, was released. They showed them in two neighboring cinemas in Piazza Giulio Cesare. Carlo and I, sitting on a bench, checked the turnout. Nobody came, neither for me nor for him. Except for a group of Koreans who thought they were actually going to see a Travolta movie. The new actor, a chef, looked very much like him. In the end, the producer Lombardo sold it all over the world, even in Gabon».

Lively scenes, those of the Cinepanettoni.

«Unfortunately now a closed genre, lacking actors, material and money. For the first one, Christmas Vacation ’95, we shot in Aspen, Colorado. Since there was no snow, we climbed to 4,000m. Except that since you are not Sherpas, after three steps you were out of breath. We met Hurricane Katrina in Miami for Christmas. Locked in the hotel with sandbags in the windows, we saw cars, lampposts, trees fly».

However, Christmas in New York switched to running in 2001.

«We had already shot half a film before embarkation, the last scenes directly in Fiumicino. It was September 11th. Attack on the Twin Towers. We didn’t go away anymore. Aurelio de Laurentiis did not want to give up. “I’ll be fine in a few days, I guarantee.” The actors rose. “What do you know? Have you spoken to bin Laden?”. “Not yet. Renata, find Mr. Bin Laden for me!” he ordered the secretary, who didn’t bat an eyelid. “Sure Doctor, just in case I leave a message.” We went back to Amsterdam and the title became Merry Christmas».

For Tifosi (1999) he signed Maradona.

“It was difficult. He accepted, but on his own terms: not filming in Naples, do it in a few days, be able to stop as soon as he was tired. We rented an apartment in Rome. Until the end, we didn’t even know if he would show up. He arrived at night and apologized to everyone. It made us despair. At the end he gave me his Argentina shirt with the dedication “To my favorite director” ».

Christmas on the Nile (2002) grossed $28 million.

“We couldn’t shoot it on the Nile because it’s like a highway and you can’t stop, other ships have to pass. So we moved to the shore of Lake Nasser. Spectacular sunset in front of the Abu Simbel Temple. And the voice of Enzo Salvi, who had a lively discussion with a certain man from Ostia in charge of buying the shells: “Don’t forget the deep ones, eh”».

The legendary duo Boldi-De Sica.

“We shot Conviene far l’amore with Christian in 1975, his first film and mine as assistant director to Pasquale Festa Campanile. “You practitioners, explain to me how it works,” he asked me. “You fall badly with me, I don’t even know”. Massimo was a little jealous of Christian because, as a Roman, he was convinced that he had more to say, which wasn’t the case. Of course we counted the words of the script so that they were the same».

At some point the couple separated.

“They never argued, partly because they didn’t see each other off the set, but they got along well. They broke up over a sheer accounting issue. Boldi discussed a contract extension with de Laurentiis and went to Medusa dissatisfied. Aurelio took a stand and celebrated Christmas in New York in 2006 with only Christian, alongside Massimo Ghini, Claudio Bisio, Sabrina Ferilli and Fabio De Luigi. And it won at the box office, taking four times as much.”

How many dog ​​actors have you met in 52 films?

“None, I always choose them, if they’re not good I don’t take them. The problem lies more with lay people like Emilio Fede and Vittorio Sgarbi. Well, they were a little bit dogs».

“If they weren’t really excellent, it was enough to write a simple script, simple jokes, they didn’t have to do Loren in La Ciociara.”

January 2, 2023 (change January 3, 2023 | 00:37)